SOUTH AMBOY, N.J. (WCBS 880) — There are hundreds of veterans and first responders all over the United States battling addictions and, on this Veterans Day, one group in New Jersey is hoping to broadcast a message to them.
“I would let them know that they're not alone,” said Brian Gillespie.
The former Marine, retired Manasquan police officer and treatment advocate at Recovery Centers of America (RCA) Raritan Bay said there are people who can help.
“I would let them know that someone understands their pain, feels their pain and there’s someone that can help them every day,” he said. “If they're sick and tired of being sick and tired, they don't have to feel that way anymore.”
Gillespie has been apart of the RCA’s “RESCU Program” since it launched over the summer to provide “a specialized therapy curriculum, counselors and residential beds to help first responders, correctional officers, and military service members, both active and retired, to overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol.”
He noted that the program is tailored for all trauma that first responders and veterans face while on the job.
“Anything from coming up on an accident call and seeing death and destruction… to a veteran who's been in combat, who has seen some things that he would never talk [about] to a regular person who might not understand, to the firefighter who's had to go into a burning building … and the EMS personnel who are coming to these calls and seeing things that [people] should never have to see,” he said.
Gillespie added that he knows first-hand about post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.
“I had ‘choir practice’ a lot – choir practice being the old term from Joseph Wambaugh – we went out after work, we’d drink, we would stay out long hours,” he said.
Gillespie said it had become too routine, until one day, he had enough.
“Right then and there, I broke down and I called my wife and told her I needed help,” he said. “And I called my friend and I said I needed help and he told me he was always there for me… and I've been sober since May 17, 2015.”
Now, Gillespie uses his personal experiences to connect with other veterans and first responders.
“I'm doing what I can. I need help every day and I get it with the help of others as I continue to help others,” he said.
Veterans and other first responders in New Jersey seeking help for addiction are encouraged to contact the RESCU Program at 855-231-0325.
More information is available at RecoveryCentersofAmerica.com.